Scientists develop ‘artificial skin’ that enables tactile communnication with electronic devices

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by Jessica Tabinor on

     INDUSTRY NEWS | 5 MIN READ

  • Researchers at Bristol University in partnership with Télécom ParisTech and Sorbonne University have developed an artificial skin for electronic devices that could allow emotions to be communicated via touch.

  • The devices can detect position and pressure along with emotive actions such as tickling, pinching and twisting, and can be programmed to associate those gestures with their appropriate reactions.

Researchers at Bristol University in partnership with Télécom ParisTech and Sorbonne University have developed an artificial skin for electronic devices that could allow emotions to be communicated via touch.

The cross-channel team of engineers have developed the biomimetic interface, known as Skin-On which is formed from a contoured outer silicone membrane and a hypodermis layer. It enabled electronic devices to have a skin-like feel, while an electrode layer of conductive threads underneath translates tactile actions into digital signals.search morson jobsThe Skin-On devices can detect position and pressure along with emotive actions such as tickling, pinching and twisting, and can be programmed to associate those gestures with their appropriate reactions.

Marc Teyssier, a PhD student at Télécom ParisTech and Sorbonne University said:

“One of the main uses of smartphones is mediated communication, using text, voice, video, or a combination,”

“We implemented a messaging application where users can express rich tactile emotions on the artificial skin. The intensity of the touch controls the size of the emojis. A strong grip conveys anger while tickling the skin displays a laughing emoji and tapping creates a surprised emoji.”

So far the research team have created a phone case, computer touchpad and a smartwatch to demonstrate how the technology can work. The hardware behind the technology has also been made open source, and the researchers want developers to replicate and build on the functionality of the artificial skin.


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Research supervisor Dr Anne Roudaut, Associate Professor in Human-Computer Interaction at the University of Bristol added:

“This is the first time we have the opportunity to add skin to our interactive devices,”

“The idea is perhaps a bit surprising, but skin is an interface we are highly familiar with so why not use it and its richness with the devices we use every day?”

The team have created a research paper which will be presented this week at the 2019 User Interface Software and Technology event in New Orleans.


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